* Illinois’ top atheist “activist” Rob Sherman lost another and likely final round yesterday in his attempt to overturn a $20,000 state grant to renovate a huge cross in southern Illinois, known as the “Bald Knob Cross of Peace.” Lower courts had already ruled against Sherman, and the US Supreme Court rejected his appeal this week…
Sherman sued in August 2010, arguing that efforts to repair the cross using state money have “the primary effect of advancing a particular religious sect, namely Christianity.” He noted that the grant came from a $5 million pot of money that the state Legislature channeled to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Sherman insisted that the grant was a legislative earmark - not a discretionary allocation from the executive branch - and therefore violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against the establishment of religion.
“This action by the Supreme Court affirms that our nation’s court system is a joke,” Sherman said in a statement. The high court’s “refusal to take my case means that any legislative (body), whether it be Congress, a state legislature or a municipal board, can make blatantly unconstitutional grants to advance religion simply by naming an executive branch agency as a middleman in the transaction.
“What a joke! What a fraud against the taxpayers of this country.”
Well, if the nation’s court system is such a “joke” then maybe Sherman will stop suing at the drop of a hat.
* Look, Sherman has made some valid points over the years. Our own state Constitution is pretty darned clear on the matter…
No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent, nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship. […]
Neither the General Assembly nor any county, city, town, township, school district, or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money, or other personal property ever be made by the State, or any such public corporation, to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.
But since the cross is a tourist destination and doesn’t necessarily serve as a “place of worship” or a “sectarian purpose,” then it’s OK, I suppose.